Michigan Association of School Administrators

Your Success. Our Passion.

Member Blogs

Blog Authors

David Britton, Godfrey-Lee
Rich Franklin, Athens
Scot Graden, Saline
Tony Habra, Paw Paw
Jerry Jennings, MASA
Michele Lemire, Escanaba
Vickie Markavitch, Oakland
Steve Matthews, Novi
Mike Paskewicz, Northview

MASA members: If you have a blog that you would like us to link please contact pmarrah@gomasa.org

Dangerous myths and distortions: D's get degrees

Written by Steve Matthews on Jan 21, 2015
When my oldest son went off to college a Senior in his fraternity, who was majoring in engineering, relayed this bit of wisdom: D's get degrees.

While technically true, I was not comforted by the thought of driving over a bridge or riding in an elevator or flying in a plane that had been designed, constructed, and built by an engineer who earned D's throughout her/his college career. I would rather trust my life to the engineer who really knew and understood the concepts.
A wise man (Doug Reeves) once said: A "D" is a coward's "F." The student failed but you didn't have enough guts to tell him/her.
Grades, while they seem so clear, really don't tell us very much. I could earn an "A" in biology and still have failed a section or a unit over the course of a semester. Was that section or unit important? The grade of "A" would suggest that it was not.
But what if it was?
Students need to know what they know and what they don't know. Traditional grades are averages. And averages distort. 
As educators we have an obligation to accurately report what our students know and don't know.
Traditional grades don't do that.

Students Give Speech, "How to Be a Change Maker"

Written by Michele Lemire on Jan 19, 2015
I was thrilled to be able to sit in on the American Association of University Women's annual "Speech Trek--the M. Jean Jokipii Memorial Speech Contest"  last week. The Escanaba Chapter hosted this event and we had a good showing of EHS Students taking part. The theme was "How to be a Change Maker Against Bullying, Sexual Harassment, and Violence." I thought it was a perfect compliment to what we are doing in all of our schools! We have had Challenge Day, as well as continue to have a "Be the Change Team" at the Junior and Senior High Schools. The AAUW event further strengthens the net we are trying to cast to make sure all students feel comfortable and safe.

While each of the students did a fabulous job representing themselves and their schools, we did have one Escanaba student "place" in the competition. Brianna Allen, a senior at EHS won second place. We are all very proud of her and hope that she and the other contestants continue their strides to be a "Change Maker" in their schools and communities!

On the importance of grades

Written by Steve Matthews on Jan 14, 2015
Do grades reflect your actual ability or knowledge?

I earned a 2.4 grade in my Organic Chemistry class at the University of Washington. (The UW did not give letter grades while I was there - only numerical equivalents. Don't ask me why.) That, in truth, probably overstated my actual knowledge in the course.

Grades, of course, signify your ability and knowledge. In a manner of speaking, they represent how smart you are.

But do they?

I would humbly suggest that the grade I earned in Organic Chemistry in 1977 probably was a poor reflection of my actual knowledge.

A recent article in The Atlantic suggests grades reveal little about achievement. The article focuses on grade inflation and notes that while grades and GPAs have increased over time measures of actual achievement and knowledge have remained relatively static.

Which leads to the question of why we pursue grades with such vigor.

Next week students at Novi High School will have their midterm exams. Study sessions are and will be organized to prep students for these exams. Teachers will engage in class reviews. Students will gather at coffee shops and in the library to help each other prepare.

I am not here to suggest that these efforts are not important.

I am here to ask another question: Of what importance are grades?

We must be able to help students, and by extension parents, community members, colleges, employers, and others with an interest in knowing exactly how smart our students are, know where they stand. Do they know the material is a relatively important question.

But my question is: Do grades actually help us answer that question?

1/6/15 Visit to the Early Elementary

Written by Tony Habra on Jan 12, 2015

A Visit to the Early Elementary 1/6/2015

It has been a very cold week, and we have only had students in the buildings once as we came back from break.  In my house, there are only so many board games that can be played and television shows that can be watched before the kids start going stir crazy.  I know my wife is tired of being called for over and over, but I need help!

Fortunately, our teachers were ready right away.  I started in Mrs. VanDenBoom’s room. Her kindergartners were busy working at centers as she worked with individual students who required additional support.  What impressed me the most, and remember these are 5 year olds, is that every student I asked knew what they were supposed to be doing at their center, what they were supposed to be learning, could explain it to me, and were busy helping each other accomplish the tasks.  Today’s jobs require people to work in teams on a variety of undertakings with little direct supervision.  Mrs. VanDenBoom’s students will be ready.

I was also able to observe Ms. Embury working with a small group of students.  These students require additional support and can be distracted easily, but Ms. Embury’s quiet consistency coupled with her ability to help the students refocus on the task at hand make the difference.  Each student she was working with needed a different type of support and she was able to recognize and provide it.  No two children are the same but in the end they all must be College, Career, and Community Ready! Ms. Embury is helping make certain all our children reach that goal.

In Mrs. Dalton’s room I watched as she was leading two kindergartners to understand the concept of equal.  She didn’t tell them it meant “the same” - she helped them figure it out on their own.  The students kept answering her questions incorrectly, but she never showed frustration.  Instead she praised each wrong answer as a step in the right direction.  She applauded the effort but insisted they keep trying, giving each child the courage to take one more risk.  Thomas Edison, when asked about why he took so long to perfect the lightbulb and failed so often, is quoted as saying: "I have not failed 10,000 times. I have successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work."  Mrs. Dalton is preparing students to have the courage to find ways to make things work.

Finally, I went to Mrs. Bielang’s room.  Mrs. Bielang has an incredible commitment to her students.  She seeks out teachable moments and uses them, helping each student reach for a new level of understanding.  When I entered her room, she had a student who immediately decided that my name was “Mr. Professor.” I have certainly been called worse so I smiled.  Mrs. Bielang saw one of those teachable moments.  She helped the young man find the best way to find out my real name, first by introducing himself and then by seeking eye contact and using the proper phrasing.  The child struggled for close to five minutes, but Mrs. Bielang never gave up and in the end he was able to ask my name.  I introduced myself and he said “OK, Mr. Professor.” My name was never important and Mrs. Bielang understood that, it was learning the process.

One day this week and still a tremendous amount of learning.  Our teachers impress me each time I enter their rooms and watch what’s happening.  I am fairly certain that Kim would like that learning to be happening a little more often at school, and that I would do a little more of the teaching at home.  Still, it’s probably better if I just let her take over.  The kids are shouting so I better go get her.


Careful Decisions…

Written by Scot Graden on Jan 11, 2015

Dear Saline Families,

Over the past eight winters as the Superintendent for Saline Schools, I have been tasked with making difficult decisions about school cancellations.  Weather is unpredictable, and especially so in Michigan.  In previous years, there have been between zero and nine days where school was cancelled due to inclement weather.

This past week, school was open.  In making that decision, I gathered information from a variety of sources, weighed the options and considered the alternatives. I posted to the school website the criteria used to consider cancellation.  Based on all of the information, the decision to keep the buildings open was sound.

There is one overarching theme in this decision-making process:  The safety of the students and staff will always come first.

As with other controversial matters, when decisions are made others may not agree.  This week, some families did not agree with the decision to keep the schools open when the temperatures dipped below zero.  I listened to, and read on social media, many of your concerns. I continue to reflect on the concerns raised, and appreciate the respectful criticisms voiced.

I urge students, parents and community members to use social media responsibly and respectfully when airing concerns.  Making the safest decisions regarding weather closures is my aim. I appreciate your feedback and courteous use of the media. These difficult decisions are never easy. I am committed to making wise, purposeful decisions and I appreciate your support.


Scot A. Graden, Superintendent
Saline Area Schools